Has God ever revealed something to you suddenly? Have you ever felt a switch go off in your brain that resets your perspective?
New information, ideas and theories are some of my favorite things. I love to be struck with a new thought or to see a new correlation that will further inform how I interact with the world. However, I was not expecting to get one of those moments while learning about quantum physics.
As a homeschool mom I have the opportunity to delve deeply into topics that I have no interest in, and science, as a general rule, is one of those topics. Primarily because I don’t understand it, but the history of science is something that I have enjoyed reading to my kids this year.
Now, for the last two years, maybe three, our family life has been in upheaval. We’ve moved, we’ve left cross-cultural ministry, we’ve worked through mental health issues, processed through abusive leadership and our own failings. Then, just as we felt we were getting our feet under us, there happens to be a global pandemic.
No joke. We are on lockdown.
I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to figure out and understand why God does what he does and why he has made my personal path seemingly awful. I’ve tried to fix my personal and emotional issues. I’ve tried to find the meaning behind all the chaos. I’ve been angry. I’ve given up. I’ve tried to trust and let go but there has been a lingering sense of uncertainty when it comes to God.
I’m scared of what God will do. I’m scared of what he will ask me to walk through, especially if he is bent on increasing the intensity of my trials. That is a black hole I don’t want to look down.
But I’ve been reading all about Aristotle, Newton and Einstein and I found something amazing. Early scientists believed that the world ran like clockwork, that laws of nature were predictable once you learned what those specific laws were. You could calculate anything and know anything absolutely. These scientists held tightly to that belief, often stubbornly, and believed that they could measure everything with perfect precision.
However, the further (and smaller) the scientists moved into the field of physics, they were surprised to find that within the quantum world, measurement cannot be precise. In fact, you can’t measure or know all aspects of a quantum system at the same time. For example, if you set up an experiment to see how an electron would move around an atom, you would find that even though the experiment has been set up the same, the outcomes will be different. Scientists are forced to rely on averages and probabilities based on data from past observations. There is no way to tell, with any certainty, which path an electron will choose.
Ultimately, our best hope is to rest in probabilities. As Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle would say, “The universe has an element of flexibility at its core; that leaves some freedom and fluidity in our world.”
Now, hear me out because this is what I found so profound for my current circumstance.
First, I could hold on tight to the belief that everything is understandable. I could keep trying to find the right pattern of behavior or the right way of thinking and in this way, I would be a lot like Newton and other ancient scientists who saw the world as black and white. They saw a highly predictable world that functioned under stated and absolute laws. But this way of thinking brings no peace, it only brings war, and forces me into the game of blame because, if the outcome isn’t perfect or pleasant or good, then there must be something wrong in the system. Usually, that would be me, God or someone else.
Second, I could hold the belief that nothing is predictable and everything is chaos. This leads to straight nihilism and is a very scary place to go. It means that we have no control over anything, God is acting randomly and the world has no purpose. This belief system leads to a myriad of evils.
Thirdly, I could find a way to hold both and I believe that this is the truth of our world. A world and faith of probabilities. This means I hold the predictability of living by faith in one hand while holding onto the reality that chaos still exists in the world. I can trust God to act in a way that I would expect but accept that he may not. I can trust that he will provide housing and employment and food while at the same time accepting that he may not provide any of those. I can trust that he will keep us healthy while at the same time accepting that we might get very sick.
I have a hard time believing that God won’t throw me under some bus. I bide my time and wait for the next crisis and never enjoy the predictability of the present. I don’t want to live my life in that space anymore. I want to hold both truths simultaneously.
So, that’s my goal during this current pandemic. I want to be able to believe that God will act as he has in the past while at the same time knowing that we may be out of a job soon but that doesn’t mean the world is running awry.
Because even though those quantum electrons and quarks are acting unpredictably, they still make the world work and they still create beauty and all of life.
A lot like God, I suppose.
Do you live in a world of certainty, chaos or do you fall somewhere in the middle? How has this pandemic changed your world?